Now if that sounds like we were out in the wilds, far from civilisation, fending for ourselves, sleeping rough and cooking over open fire
We were at a somewhat secluded camp ground an easyish 20 minute drive from a major town with powered site and hot water a short stroll away. We cooked on a gas stove and boiled water in my quite well fitted out caravan kitchen.
But – – – there was no wifi, no mobile phone reception and its one heck of a chilly midnight walk to those amenities
Rough enough for us townies.
We’ve done this mid winter trip for three years now We pull our none too glamourous but very cozy caravan 90 minutes down the road for a week with a group of other families and might I suggest if you do the same make sure one of those families are your best friends. Makes for the best kind of fun and despite all the planning there are indignities that only occur when camping that you only want to share with people you know well.
Can I just say setting up is the absolute worst bit – packing up is a dream in comparison. And the thing is, you forget once your set up and are cooking sausages on the fire just how excruciating it was – thats why you do it all again next time.
Now I’ve learnt just to walk away while the minute calculations and configurations in terms of velocity and angle of reversing that caravan into the exact right spot are done. It’s agonising. Think in terms of pulling teeth. Then theres the getting it level, front to back, side to side. What a circus.
This time though we arrived first. No one else was set up. Yes! it’ll be easy I thought. There was an area half the size of a football field where we had free reign to drive in from any direction and set up that caravan. Why? because NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE . Yet 20 minutes of discussion and all the usual to-ing and fro-ing and “just a bit to the left”, “no a touch forward” still had to be done. Circus I tell you
Doesn’t end there my friend. And this time I’m part of the problem. We’ve had our caravan about two and a half years. We’ve had her out many a time and still, STILL!! we pull out the makings of our annexe – its the old fashioned type with the poles and the canvas walls – and look at it like we’ve never seen it before. Every time its the same. Bamboozled. Which bit goes where? Which pole first. How does that bit fit, isn’t there supposed to be a door here? Last time to avoid some of the drama I got various coloured tapes and marked each of the poles before we took it down which was a wonderful idea except I’ve absolutely no idea what those coloured tapes signify now. Didn’t write myself a grid did I. Its times like these big strong 15 year old son looks at us at like were mad or at the very least the most embarrassing un cool people on the planet. Its times like these I tend to agree. His patience is short but his memory better than mine so he tends to take over. Theres lots of “not that one” and “oh just let me do it”. Gladly son. I’ll sort out his attitude later just set my annexe up and fast.
Wasn’t fast even with miracle boy in charge. Others who arrived after us had their tents up in a jiffy and were lighting fires, planning dinner, opening wine and I suspect laughing at us behind their tarps well before that annexe was move in ready.
Welcome to a week in the woods.
As nice as it is to get away and be out in nature we are all a bit wretched for the first day or so. Lost without our mobiles and wifi and our routines and home comforts. And what do we do with ourselves exactly. Its hard to stop, its hard not to be busy at first.
So we went into town for milkshakes.
Milkshakes and mobile phone reception – and we all calmed down a bit.
Give it a day or two though and the sky and the trees and the stars and the sun on the water start to do their work and you give in to the slow and having nowhere to be. Kids too. The campfire, the long conversations and the river in the end prove quite good company.
Each year is different though. Last year it was only a month or so after my mum had passed away and that week in the sun with the trees and the bluest of skies was like an oasis – it warmed me through – the kind of gift only loss can give. There was no recapturing that this year. Solace arrives it seems when its needed most, unbidden, unearnt. It wraps around – like grace, like mercy. It doesn’t return on a whim.
Theres always a book that finds me though. More gifts. Last year it was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and this year I had a guided tour through the Italian country side with Julietta Jameson an Australian journalist and travel writer who retraced the travels of Lord Byron in Me, Myself and Lord Byron. I’d bought it from the library sale for 50 cents about six months ago. Had not picked it up since and brought it in a basket of other books (like a mobile library because everyones looking for a book to read when away) and I’d prayed a silent prayer that one of them would be the ONE. This was the one, yes a gift, a tonic.
And just like the books arrive so do the freak weather events. Last year we had the clear sky one minute, dark clouds the next, then almighty golf ball size hail storm for ten minutes, followed by blue sky again.
This year it was less beguiling. Three nights straight of what felt like 3000km winds. Must say caravan may not be the most glamorous of specimens but it handled the freakish winds without drama. We on the other hand were a little frazzled.
I got these pics sixish in the morning cause there was no chance of further sleep. You’d never guess at the wind. Looks calm and beautiful.
A week in the windy woods has a way of making you grateful for life’s modern conveniences such as brick walls and amenities just a quick warm walk down the hallway yet we’re always a little sad to leave our little spot on the river.
One of the nice things about going home though apart from the modern conveniences – is you get this tiny glimpse of home through fresh eyes. You notice the undone sure but you notice it’s loveliness too. Spent a good amount of time laying on my day bed Saturday appreciating home comforts and listening to the wind – still persistent – howl outside and feeling grateful I was no longer out in it.
Read about some of our other camping adventures here
Thanks for reading friend and if you’ve some camping tales of your own jump in below in the comments. would love to hear xx